Inflammation: The Mechanism of Survival

Without hesitation, allow me to say that I can no longer just sit back and observe the conversations, blame and lack of integrity when it comes to public information and discussions around today’s health issues and how to manage dis-ease, dis-order and dis-ability.

Whenever I am honored to work with a client, albeit new or return, I am presented with questions and concerns about a diagnosis. For as much as this excites me because I love working with chronic health issues, each time is a fresh opportunity to research and look into what’s going on with that individual and help them to improve their experience of health and wellness. That said, no two health conditions are identical even if they share the same label. On the other hand, they’re all the same in the sense that inflammation is ultimately at the root of their troubles … the difference is, very simply, the variation in chemicals involved.

One of the biggest fallacies I’ve encountered over the years is the push to convince the public that the body can actually be low in a certain neurochemical albeit neurotransmitter or hormone. Before addressing this directly, let me point out that there are more hormones than we (as the general public) are aware of. What’s more, the ongoing studies of the human genome and genetic function are revealing the presence of even more hormones that we never knew existed. Some of these hormones are the direct result of the stress mechanism …. say what?

Our relationship to stress is, for lack of a better description, negative; however, quite frankly, the stress mechanism is what’s keeping us alive. Please know, I am not being pessimistic .. I’m being realistic. For as harmful as we think it is, stress has a purpose. If we redirect our attention to plants rather than the human body, we come to see that when plants are threatened albeit with weather, insects, microbes, animals and such, their chemistry is altered in order to produce the necessary chemicals used for protection. In fact, this is how they reproduce; with aromatic chemicals that attract. What’s interesting is our mind sees these different circumstances as bad and good; yet, each is a natural function and it’s the stress mechanism that activates the necessary chemical changes. Not to mention, the germination of a seed requires stress so that the plant can grow which is an inflammatory process until the outcome is achieved.

Mental, emotional, environmental and physical factors all register as stress in the human body and play a role in our current state of health. Remember, stress is not a bad thing; it’s simply a natural reaction to any number of things that inevitably influence the nature of our existence. Without question, every body is affected in its own unique way (I say ‘its’ because I’m referring to a body per se, not a person) which has everything to do with the fact that each of us has a distinctive genetic code that determines the end result of every inflammatory process. Again, this doesn’t have to be bad. Inflammation is what protects us when injured. It’s what generates chemical shifts for digestion, immunity, reproduction, etc. In other words, inflammation (in an ideal setting) is activated by the stress mechanism for our own good. So how do we explain chronic illness? Chronic stress.

Keep in mind, stress leads to variations in our chemistry which alters the physiology and the way our systems function. The big one? Digestion …. the break down of carbs, fats and proteins is diminished which interrupts our ability to assimilate them. One might ask how this is beneficial. My best answer is: it’s supposed to be temporary. The body is designed to ebb and flow; so, when it’s constantly being told … it’s time to sink or swim .. the body pushes to swim... This is why we have degenerative dis-ease, mental disorders and developmental disabilities. Our bodies are in chronic survival mode essentially from the moment we are conceived due to the mental, emotional and environmental pressures and why ‘they’ test for inflammatory markers. (this is where things get really interesting)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why physicians and other health professionals make this a primary focus of their practice … the reduction and possible prevention of disease; however, our world does not provide the space for being disease free. Mentally, emotionally and environmentally, we are taxed beyond description which accounts for the extreme variations in our neurochemistry .. again, it’s not because the body isn’t producing these chemicals .. it’s simply the fact that the body is sending different signals that require more of one and not as much of the others in order to survive. This isn’t to say living with a disease is a fun way to survive … however, it is a means of survival for as long as the body can hold on, given the level of inflammation it’s experiencing in response to the stress.

Now that I’ve said this, it’s time to get to why I wrote this to begin with … inflammation.

Inflammation is simply the body’s response to the stress mechanism. While we don’t like it, it’s a fact of life and while working with two very different health conditions recently, venous insufficiency and chilblains, I discovered something very significant … venous endothelial growth factor which is a sub-group of platelet derived growth factor which happens to be involved with both. As it is, these growth factors are important mechanisms in the germination and growth of the human being. At the same time, in the presence of chronic stress and inflammation, these factors are triggered and also linked to other conditions like cancer, addiction, respiratory issues and obesity. Why? Because when exposed to stressful chemicals, the body makes the necessary physiological adjustments in order to protect the organism …. in fact, there is something known as ‘transactivation’ which means there is ‘cross talk’ between various cell receptors .. which makes sense given the fact that nature is always communicating. What’s more, our own chemistry is interacting with external chemicals and creating additional changes within the body. What’s fascinating to me is that dopamine happens to be one of the chemicals involved with the ‘cross talk’. Without question, this explains addiction on so many levels and is also an argument for deliberately doing what we can to minimize our stress … why? Because above every other chemical known for its ability to alter the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway .. cortisol is the #1 chemical linked to changes in that area of the brain... which means, our drugs and behaviors of choice are more along the lines of repeaters and pacifiers rather than being the root problems ...

In a nutshell, we’re all living with addiction with the definition of addiction being a change to the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway. Knowing that cortisol is as influential on this structure as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc, it’s fair to say these changes occur long before the introduction of any dug or substance because, as we know, cortisol is the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone which is produced for the sake of survival. This prompts the release of dopamine which has a number of uses throughout the body including the production of platelet derived growth factor which happens to be an inflammatory response that increases the permeability of the brain. Why is this important? Because it initiates cell growth and division as well as blood vessel formation and as I mentioned, venous endothelial growth factor is a sub-group that have similar purposes. Now I realize there are a plethora of processes going on in the body in any given second; however, it seems these growth factors (which are hormones) are being activated at an alarming rate due to our chronic need to self-soothe in response to the overactive stress mechanism. And when we factor in the high levels of oxidative stress being produced due to the condition of our external environment, it’s no wonder our legacy is poor health ….

So what are we to do?

It’s not hopeless; so, without sounding too cliché ….. do things that get you out of your head and bring a smile to your heart and soul. Tell yourself …. ‘I am ok’ like you would reassure a child. Take the time to talk to yourself gently using words that feel good. For as odd as this sounds, it works. My only suggestion is to use words that are meaningful to you. I’ve done this a number of times and there are some words that hit me like a wet sock … like the word abundance. That word does nothing for me; so, my encouragement is to spend time seeking words that truly soothe your soul. What’s more, this activity isn’t excessive in nature and absolutely generates a sense of inner peace. Due to my experience with addiciton and seeing how it’s really affecting all of us, I am cautious about suggesting behaviors that could become habitual which leads me to say, do different things .. change it up and don’t allow yourself to get hung up on anything specific … avoid developing repetitive habits.

And finally, using essential oils. They are, in fact, signaling molecules just like dopamine, estrogen, serotonin, nitric oxide, etc. which means they influence systemic and cellular communication. This is why knowing which of these chemicals (because essential oils are chemicals) affect our neurochemistry is essential. At the same time, not all of them do. As a matter of fact, being deliberately vague and not giving specific suggestion gets me into ‘hot water’ with a lot of people because everyone wants information they can use today. I respect that; however, it’s harmful. Take phytoestrogens, for instance. The are good for us (in an ideal situation); yet, this world is filled with chemicals that cause alterations to our hormonal system a.k.a. stress. Therefore, avoid duplicating the mechanism of action (a topic of discussion in my upcoming course) and being mindful with our selections improves our chances of stabilization.

Oils are awesome and can absolutely help alleviate the impact of chronic stress and inflammation. It just takes understanding them as well as your body in order to choose the ones that are best suited for you. This is something I’ve been doing for years with myself and others and apparently how it’s being practiced in France as well (a tidbit of info I just learned the other day). Why? Because the way your body is interpreting the pressures of life is unique to you; not to mention, your lifestyle which could potentially include medications. That said, the inclusion of oils helps to improve the body’s ability to ebb and flow